Chris Blattman has two posts, the first one responding to students who want to conduct research in post-conflict areas and a second one on Development Tourism. Excerpts from the second post:
"Can you "do development" in a two week trip? Unless you're a star surgeon or possess some other ultra-skill, my answer is an emphatic 'no'.
In Uganda, I see NGO workers, even heads of office, swing in and out in less than a year. Short tours of duty are understandable in true 'emergencies'. In any other context, this is cowboy development at its worst. Few emergencies are over in nine months. Neither, in that case, should be the positions.
One solution: hire more locals to senior positions. I've seen too little effort to train and promote local staff in too many international organizations. The glass ceiling is nearly opaque in some cases. The promotion of locals to senior positions is one of the few things I admire about UN field offices."
On the otherhand, I have seen some development work in Andhra from NRIs who spend very little time there. The NRIs mainly provide funds and work through local contacts they know like relatives and friends. Some of them seem to work well but A.P. leads in a black list of NGOs. I was recently talking to a friend working in a educational scholarship programme which also monitors the recepients of scholarships. He said that money was not a problem for them but the main problem is to find personnel to tour to do the monitoring work.
Ethan Zuckermanin in his Ted2008 series posted about Paul Collier's talk at Ted2008 and his book "The Bottom Billion" in the post TED2008: Paul Collier - Compassion and enlightened self-interest. He recommends the book but since it costs 45 Aus. dollars, for the time being, I will confine myself to his comments:
"“Now the challenge is different - reversing the divergence of the bottom billion. Is this easier or harder?” Collier advises we focus on governance, because money isn’t the problem. There’s a huge natural resource boom taking place - Uganda and Ghana have both discovered oil, and Guinea has a huge discovery of iron. “These new revenue flows dwarf aid.” In Angola, new oil revenues are $50 billion a year - total aid flows to the bottom billion nations is $34 billion a year.
So how do we ensure these flows of money make life better? Historically, they don’t - economists talk of “the resource curse.” In the short term, oil makes everyone a bit better off… and in the long-term, countries tend to end up worse off. The critical issue, he tells us, is the initial level of governance. “If your governance is good enough, there’s no resource boom.” That’s happened in places like Norway, Australia, and Canada. “The resource curse is entirely confined to a threshhold of governance.” Nigeria is a great example of what can go wrong if you don’t have enough governance. You need a level of governance around where Portugal was in the 1980s.
So, is the bottom billion above or below that threshhold? Collier hoped that the spread of democracy would help some of these nations. “And democracy has sigificant effects. But they’re adverse effects - democracies make even more of a mess of these booms than autocracies.” While Collier tells us he was tempted to give up his research at this point, he made a critical discovery. Democracies involve both elections and checks and balances. “It’s the electoral competition that does damage, but strong checks and balances make booms good.” Unfortunately, new democracies don’t have these checks and balances - they’re “instant democracies”.
There’s now an intense struggle to bring in these checks and balances. We need international standards, voluntary ones. He refers to resource extraction transparency standards that are currently being pushed in the developing world. Nigerian reformers printed some of these standards in local newspapers - there was so much interest that circulation in newspapers spiked.
What are these standards? Instead of letting an oil company fly in and meet with a minister, making a deal that’s good for the company, good for the minister, and not good for the country, why not have transparent auctions? The British treasury estimated that the rights to the 3G mobile spectrum were worth $2 billion - it sold at auction for $20 billion. “If the British treasury got it that wrong. imagine how the government of Sierra Leone will do.” And so the government of Sierra Leone immediately asked for help with running resource auctions.
Collier tells us that “unless we have an informed society, politicans will get away with gestures.” To build an informed citizenry, Collier “broke all the professional rules and wrote an Economics book you could read on a beach.” He tells us that a blogger once commented “Collier is not charismatic. But his arguments are compelling.” And that’s why, “if you agree with that comment, you realize that I need you.”
I disagree with that blogger. Collier may have been the best speaker at TED this year, despite some seriously stiff competition - powerful ideas presented compactly and compellingly. Read the damn book."
Finally M.Rajshekar in A development chronology of tihi has "...this latest sporadic offering to the blogging gods will focus on the agrarian history of tihi. it is the incidental outcome of some time I spent chatting with village elders, trying to understand what this hamlet was like in the days gone by. later, during a trip to delhi, i corroborated what they told me about crop prices and wage levels, famines and epidemics, forests and water levels, with the old district gazetteers."